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A doctoral dissertation by Nader Abualnaja (who portrayed Aziz in the video, Brian and Aziz

entitled “The perceptions of Muslim Americans regarding racial profiling at airports after 9/ll” held several surprising results. Dr. Abualnaja had a total of 226 respondents who were almost evenly divided between males and females, were generally highly educated and who were drawn from a sampling group of Muslims who attend Mosques in the United States. Sixty-four % felt that they had been profiled at airports because of being Muslim. There was little difference between males and females regarding this perception. Furthermore and of critical importance, Muslim Americans were statistically more likely to perceive that racial profiling is an effective tool in fighting terrorism. Only eighteen% disagreed with the idea that racial profiling is an effective way to fight terrorism at airports. This important research holds several implications.

Firstly, it flies in the face of those in this country who would argue that Muslim Americans are “somehow” allied with terrorist activity. While this should be self-evident to most people, Dr. Abualnaja’s research clarifies and quantifies this point. Secondly, it certainly calls for carefully thought-out training for TSA agents who must make decisions about which of the approximately 820 million passengers who travel on U. S. or foreign airlines serving the U. S.

Being able to discern between specific behaviors rather than clothes (such as hijabs or thobes), physical characteristics (such beards or skin tone) calls for collaboration between Americans whose origins are from other areas of the world (such as the Middle East, Asia and Africa) and American-born Americans who might misinterpret culture bumps (either consciously or unconsciously) as being suspicious while truly suspicious behaviors are considered benign. Therefore, training should begin – not with focus on groups of individuals – but on American-born Americans assumptions about what is dangerous and what is not dangerous. The stakes for everyone are high indeed.

(May 20, 2014)

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